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Old 01-14-2008, 01:30 PM   #1
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A Plea To Evangelicals — From An Evangelical

USAToday.com

A plea to evangelicals — from an evangelical

Mon Jan 14, 12:16 AM ET

By David P. Gushee

Conservative evangelicals are bringing a version of Christian values into the public arena where every American has to deal with it, like it or not. A recent example of this is the way grass-roots "Bible-believing Christians" in the Republican Party are boosting the candidacy of Mike Huckabee, and quite possibly sinking the campaign of Mitt Romney, mainly because Romney is a Mormon — yet another misunderstanding of the way faith is relevant to politics.

Evangelical politics matter to the general public, which is affected by what conservative evangelicals believe and "value." In the past seven years, we have seen that laws are written based on these values. Supreme Court justices are named based on these values. Executive-branch appointments are made based on these values. And presidential campaigns now seem to advance or collapse based on these values.

So the general public has come to understand that what conservative evangelicals believe and do matter an awful lot to everyone in this country. Many people are furious about it. But these beliefs and values also matter to other Christians, especially other evangelicals like me. Our reputation is at stake, our voice in the culture, and the health of our religious communities. If the most vocal evangelicals get this wrong, it damages all evangelicals — all religious believers, really.


I am not just talking about a bit of embarrassment in polite company. If there are people who reject God or the church, Christianity or religiously inspired moral values because of what conservative evangelical political activists do, this is disastrous from a Christian point of view. There are many such people. Here we are at the very heart of our religious mission, and it is getting fouled up by our politics.

Conservative evangelicals are getting wrong both how they are bringing their faith to bear on politics and what they are saying when they do.

Married to the GOP

The "how" problem, among other things, is that they are married to the Republican Party and have therefore compromised the political independence of Christianity and the church. This is a huge mistake, an error of biblical proportions, because it verges on idolatry — after all, "You shall have no other gods before me."

One obvious sign of this was the assumption in the Christian Right that its leaders would endorse a Republican presidential candidate — that it was just a matter of which of those GOP gentlemen was the best Christian choice. Endorsing a Democrat was and is inconceivable.

Once any group of Christians gives itself away so completely to a political party, it ceases to be the church. The church becomes a branch office of the group's political party of choice — The First Republican Church in America. This is the root problem, and it leads to all the other specific mistakes that follow: using the church (or parachurch organizations) and its considerable resources for direct or veiled candidate endorsements, political strategizing, dissemination of essentially partisan "voter guides," and get-out-the-vote efforts. A whole lot more than tax status is threatened when churches go over so completely to the business of secular politics.

The "what" problem is more subtle but just as important. Conservative evangelicals generally offer an unbiblically narrow policy agenda focused on just a few moral issues such as abortion and gay marriage instead of tackling the full range of biblical concerns, which include poverty, oppression and war. And when they do engage some of these other issues, such as the foreign policy of our nation, they are (ironically) not Christian enough. Their faith doesn't inform their vote in a way that makes sense biblically. They are getting their values from somewhere else — not from Jesus — which is why they look so uncomfortable whenever anyone raises the "Jesus issue" in relation to their support for, say, torture.

We must regroup. We evangelicals must rethink our engagement with politics. The place to start is by remembering that the church is not a branch of a political party and that its distinctive identity and mission must be protected, both for the sake of the church and for the sake of our culture and the world.

Compromised identity

The fundamental task of a religious organization is to serve God, not win in secular politics. Once this distinction is lost, the identity of the religious organization is compromised beyond repair. This is bad not just for the integrity of that religious group, but also for society, which if it is to flourish needs a variety of social institutions performing a variety of functions — not every social institution morphing into a political organization.

Specifically for Christians, we (should) know that the mission of the church is to be Christ's faithful people, and to do its core work of preaching, teaching and serving our neighbors. If it is true (as we boldly believe) that the church is the central location for the work God is doing to redeem the world, then our focus should be on the church's work, not the state's. As one aspect of our God-inspired love for our neighbor, we can ask the state and its leaders to do justice, protect life and advance the common good. We can do this in many quite constructive ways, from scholarly work to declarations of principles to activism on specific issues.

But we dare not identify the work of any state, any political party or any politician with the work of God or the task of the church. Every time we do so we end up embarrassing ourselves, enraging the neighbors we are called to love, deepening the culture wars and damaging our own mission.

David P. Gushee is Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University, president of Evangelicals for Human Rights, and author of The Future of Faith in American Politics, to be released this week.
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Old 01-14-2008, 10:30 PM   #2
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Great article, I agree 100% As an evangelical myself, it scares me how Huckabee is rising so much in the polls. Everything the Christian right is doing is totally against Jesus' teachings. We're supposed to show our faith through our actions, NOT by force. I am scared that our faith is being diluted by these so called "Christian" politicians. I'm concerned of our faith and what it is being turned into.
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Old 01-15-2008, 01:30 AM   #3
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Re: A Plea To Evangelicals — From An Evangelical

Quote:
Originally posted by MrsSpringsteen

Once any group of Christians gives itself away so completely to a political party, it ceases to be the church. The church becomes a branch office of the group's political party of choice — The First Republican Church in America. This is the root problem, and it leads to all the other specific mistakes that follow: using the church (or parachurch organizations) and its considerable resources for direct or veiled candidate endorsements, political strategizing, dissemination of essentially partisan "voter guides," and get-out-the-vote efforts. A whole lot more than tax status is threatened when churches go over so completely to the business of secular politics.
This is what I attempted to explain to my 78 year old Mother when she ask me today - who these Evangelical Christians are
and what was the difference to her Christian beliefs?
I tried to explain, but I truly stumbled over the question.
This puts it into a perspective I know she will understand.

Thanks for the article MrsSpringstein...


edited to say: my reply isn't directed at just "Republicans".
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Old 01-15-2008, 03:25 AM   #4
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Quote:
Once any group of Christians gives itself away so completely to a political party, it ceases to be the church. The church becomes a branch office of the group's political party of choice. This is the root problem, and it leads to all the other specific mistakes that follow: using the church (or parachurch organizations) and its considerable resources for direct or veiled candidate endorsements, political strategizing, dissemination of essentially partisan "voter guides," and get-out-the-vote efforts.
The author is speaking of black evangelicals right? Because they vote Democratic in even higher percentages than white evangelicals vote Republican. Kinda doubt it.

But hey. 2008 is about change, so why not evangelicals? Now, if only the "other political party" wasn't so darn comfy with all those "special interest" groups that show such utter contempt for pro-life and other conservative beliefs, the secularists that seek to remove religion from public life and the cultural elites that denigrate the South and the Heartland (i.e., the Red states, our natural habitat) as hicks and rednecks.
Do we throw-in with them or are we just supposed to retreat from politics?
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Old 01-15-2008, 06:17 AM   #5
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I was wondering how some of our conservative posters might respond to this.

Quote:
Originally posted by INDY500


The author is speaking of black evangelicals right? Because they vote Democratic in even higher percentages than white evangelicals vote Republican. Kinda doubt it.
Are you suggesting that this author has an anti-Republican agenda then? Are you assuming that he'd be okay with the polticization of the black church? On what basis? Do you have some evidence that he's on some left-wing organization's payroll? I don't know the answers to any of those questions, but I'd like to think that he'd feel the same about black evangelicals as white ones--I know I do, and I'm black. I'm guessing that his focus on Republican Christians has to do with their much larger presence in the "culture wars", in the media, and on the political scene. Which presidential candidate have black evangelicals single-handedly raised to national prominence of late?

Quote:
Originally posted by INDY500
But hey. 2008 is about change, so why not evangelicals? Now, if only the "other political party" wasn't so darn comfy with all those "special interest" groups that show such utter contempt for pro-life and other conservative beliefs, the secularists that seek to remove religion from public life and the cultural elites that denigrate the South and the Heartland (i.e., the Red states, our natural habitat) as hicks and rednecks.
Do we throw-in with them or are we just supposed to retreat from politics?
You're skirting right over the arguments the author made about exactly how those issues could be appropriately addressed in the public sphere. We're both Christians (so other posters, please bear with us), so I challenge you to show me Scriptures that suggest we need to fight ferociously in the political arena to prevent "secularists from removing religion from public life" and to prevent the "cultural elites"--cultural elites!?! Are you kidding me? What does this have to do with anything remotely related to Jesus--what does He care about "cultural elites" other than that He loves them and died to save them just like everyone else? Since when were Christians to get all bent out of shape because someone calls them names or denigrates their region. The Man from another "rural backwater" never seemed to make it an issue?
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Old 01-15-2008, 06:33 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by INDY500
the secularists that seek to remove religion from public life
Or just removing it from law and politics ... which would be the correct thing to do.
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Old 01-15-2008, 01:09 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally posted by maycocksean
[B]
Are you suggesting that this author has an anti-Republican agenda then? Are you assuming that he'd be okay with the polticization of the black church? On what basis? Do you have some evidence that he's on some left-wing organization's payroll? I don't know the answers to any of those questions, but I'd like to think that he'd feel the same about black evangelicals as white ones--I know I do, and I'm black. I'm guessing that his focus on Republican Christians has to do with their much larger presence in the "culture wars", in the media, and on the political scene. Which presidential candidate have black evangelicals single-handedly raised to national prominence of late?
Well, when I quoted the paragraph from the article I left one line out that was right in the middle.

"Once any group of Christians gives itself away so completely to a political party, it ceases to be the church. The church becomes a branch office of the group's political party of choice —
Quote:
The First Republican Church in America."
Once any group of Christians gives itself so completely to a political party it morphs into the FRC of America? Clearly not. Now, for whatever reason the author choose not to bring up the point I made but, from other sections of his piece I do detect at the very least a double standard.
Quote:
Evangelical politics matter to the general public, which is affected by what conservative evangelicals believe and "value." In the past seven years, we have seen that laws are written based on these values
Why the last seven years? What about Jimmy Carter, who professed to being born-again during his winning 1976 campaign? Or the Reverend Jesse Jackson who won 5 primaries or caucuses in 1984?
And what are the alternative "values" that, presumably, written laws would have be been based on these past seven years if not for GWB and the FRC of America?
Quote:
This is bad not just for the integrity of that religious group, but also for society, which if it is to flourish needs a variety of social institutions performing a variety of functions — not every social institution morphing into a political organization.
Does the author show equal concern that social institutions such as labor unions, the AARP and countless others become politically involved? Can they not become corrupted as well over time by this allegiance, or only church organizations that support the GOP?

Quote:
You're skirting right over the arguments the author made about exactly how those issues could be appropriately addressed in the public sphere. We're both Christians (so other posters, please bear with us), so I challenge you to show me Scriptures that suggest we need to fight ferociously in the political arena...

Fair question and one we've touched on before. Early Christians had no power -- had no vote. They didn't live in a democracy and besides, they saw their primary mission as one of the conversion of sinners, not politics. Now, this changed, for the worst in my opinion, when Constantine placed himself at the head of the Church in the 4th century, replacing Jesus. Yes, as emperor he was able to put an end to the institutionalized persecution of Christians, stop the gladiatorial games, allow churches to be built and criminalize the pagan practice of infanticide. Good things, so power can be used for good. And as the Holy Roman Empire spread, so did Christianity and it's "values", but the corruption of the state by the church and the church by the state for the next 1000 years was responsible for some of the darkest chapters in human history as well wasn't it? You'll get no argument from me about limited government or separation of church and state. The wall is not, however, between state and common morality.
It is just as valid for a Christian to argue or vote his values as for anyone else theirs.
So, should Christians "fight ferociously in the political arena"? I'm all for a more low-key approach to most issues, but one must hope that the ferociousness could calm on all sides.
However, what happens when a government is clearly not obeying the "natural law" that all human beings are children of God with God given rights as with slavery or politically tyranny. Does the Bible dictate that people must suffer in silence? Or does that government lose their authority in those cases and therefore, by duty, must be defeated or reformed?

Quote:
cultural elites!?! Are you kidding me? What does this have to do with anything remotely related to Jesus--what does He care about "cultural elites" other than that He loves them and died to save them just like everyone else? Since when were Christians to get all bent out of shape because someone calls them names or denigrates their region. B]
Well, the author seems to be having the same problem.

Quote:
I am not just talking about a bit of embarrassment in polite company. If there are people who reject God or the church, Christianity or religiously inspired moral values because of what conservative evangelical political activists do, this is disastrous from a Christian point of view. There are many such people.
Indeed there are, and if they are primarily liberal or primarily Democratic doesn't that only force the conservative evangelical to remain voting GOP?
Hope I didn't skirt over anything this time.
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Old 01-15-2008, 06:52 PM   #8
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Old 01-15-2008, 08:18 PM   #9
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Great, more "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross." nonsense. It's only been twelve presidents and 70 years since 'It Can't Happen Here' was published.

According to Ray Bradbury, fascism will come dressed as firemen. A much cooler premise from a much better fiction writer.
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Old 01-16-2008, 01:14 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by INDY500


The author is speaking of black evangelicals right? Because they vote Democratic in even higher percentages than white evangelicals vote Republican. Kinda doubt it.

But hey. 2008 is about change, so why not evangelicals? Now, if only the "other political party" wasn't so darn comfy with all those "special interest" groups that show such utter contempt for pro-life and other conservative beliefs, the secularists that seek to remove religion from public life and the cultural elites that denigrate the South and the Heartland (i.e., the Red states, our natural habitat) as hicks and rednecks.
Do we throw-in with them or are we just supposed to retreat from politics?
Secularists are now bad people
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Old 01-16-2008, 01:14 AM   #11
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Proving that religious stupidity is not limited to the Christian Right.
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Old 01-16-2008, 03:33 AM   #12
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One thing I don't get about these fundamentalists is how they can approve of the death penalty, which is something that Jesus was clearly against. Mike Huckabee is supposed to be the religious candidate? He's allowed more deaths with the death penalty than any body else who is running. Give me a break.

In one of the previous debates:

Question: What would Jesus do about the death penalty if he were President.

Huckabee: Jesus was too smart to ever be President.



Dodge, anybody?
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Old 01-16-2008, 04:44 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally posted by Infinitum98


Huckabee: Jesus was too smart to ever be President.


Jesus wasn't a particularly adept politician. Shoot, they KILLED him!

Jesus kingdom wasn't about dominating His nation then. His kingdom isn't about that now.
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Old 01-16-2008, 08:15 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by Infinitum98

Question: What would Jesus do about the death penalty if he were President.

Huckabee: Jesus was too smart to ever be President
Interesting that he wants to amend the Constitution to be in line with Jesus/God but he won't answer that question. He seems to know WJWD in every situation but that one. Apparently he sees the inherent contradiction in his position, thus the dodge.
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Old 01-16-2008, 09:18 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by CherokeeRose
Great article, I agree 100% As an evangelical myself, it scares me how Huckabee is rising so much in the polls.
this time a month from now, Huckabee will be a Campaign '08 footnote.
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